'Marriage is...not a safe house.'
It's not as uncommon as we'd wish that, as soon as the knot is tied, overnight and sometimes when the ink is barely dry on the certificate, a new husband is revealed in an altogether altered character than that presented beforehand. If the same thing happens the other way round, I'm not aware of it, and wonder whether such a dynamic could be quite as grotesque and threatening.
Women are lucky that education has freed them from dependency. The single life is now a viable option. Half a century ago, matrimony was regarded as a public more than a private obligation. It was held in honour for strengthening the fabric of society, fielding its social problems and building the future. When you'd made your bed, you had to lie on it, if only because of economic imperatives. The pressure to conform and also to produce children within a year or two, was immense. No doubt there was a deep anthropological purpose in this to do with the survival of the species, especially after two world wars. The married state was both more and less of a risk than it is now. Because it was a lifelong venture, it was deemed wise to invite heaven's blessing on the whole scenario proceeding from it.
What many couples in the past had a chance to find out, was that weathering the trials of life in company with one another actually strengthened the bond between them and brought them through to unforeseen regions of delight in solidarity. Instead of the 'yoke' chafing at every rut, it began to even the load. Real love is not the stuff of opera and romance, or wild and transient passion, but its compelling force provides a motif and a motivation to take on the world in quiet confidence and leave it a better place. It's not about gazing into one another's eyes, but about gazing out upon the world from a shared platform.
We live in different times. Where divorce was unheard of in those days, except among celebrities, it has become as commonplace as marriage itself. There is a consensus about short-circuiting unhappiness. It is senseless to prolong the agony. We have only one life. And there can be non-negotiable reasons why a marriage in law can be a travesty, or worse. Ghastly mistakes may be made. One half hanging in there against the behaviour of the other doesn't make a marriage. It makes one person's triumph of survival against the odds. Yet how much agony is manufactured by the lure of pastures new, the built-in get-out clauses and the underlying knowledge in the first place that it's okay to cut and run if things don't work out? And by what criteria do we judge 'not working out'? How much nervousness sets in over comparative trifles when escape routes are easy? As Virginia makes clear, marriage finds out who we really are.
New codes of behaviour may have become acceptable, but there is such a thing as objective truth. Where we may change, it doesn't. The fallout may roll on endlessly down the generations. Consequences seldom take effect overnight. Marriage as a structure has evolved in the best interests of everyone, whether on the inside or outside of that institution.
Ideally - yes, ideals are a pathfinder - with perseverance and goodwill, we hope that attraction will blossom into a stable and loving kinship that allows spouses to go on discovering new 'rooms' in the houses of their own and each other's personalities, just because...
There are hardships in both lifestyles, married and single, yet nothing so hellish, so desolating, as being trapped in an emotional warp.
In the light of Rina's opening paragraph, I think it's still worth asking the searching question about a prospective partner: Are we likely to make each other twice the people we are, or reduce each of us to half?
Bearing in mind that a marriage is a new entity, greater than the sum of its parts, the scope of this ratio is almost limitless.
It's still the luck of the draw and, for many, requires divine guidance in making the decision and in living out what comes after, whatever that be.
Some memorable asides from the famous who've been there. Or not.
Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.
To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you're wrong, admit it; Whenever you're right, shut up.
Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.
One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.
Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out.
Michel de Montaigne
They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake.
The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin.
Honore de Balzac
Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later; for another thing, they die earlier.
H. L. Mencken
The bonds of matrimony are like any other bonds — they mature slowly.
Peter De Vries
There is no substitute for the comfort supplied by the utterly taken-for granted relationship.
Matrimony is a process by which a grocer acquired an account the florist had.
That quiet mutual gaze of a trusting husband and wife is like the first moment of rest or refuge from a great weariness or a great danger.
It's a funny thing that when a man hasn't anything on earth to worry about, he goes off and gets married.
Books and marriage go ill together.
© Copyright Rosy Cole 2015